Wolfram's room had been invaded. There was a second desk shoved right up against his own, an oversized nightstand that was too tall for the bed had been pressed right next to it to make room for the gigantic dresser, and he hadn't even stepped through the doorway to see what might be crammed into the other corner of the room. There was a black rug on what little space remained visible of the floor. Yuuri had never had a black rug in his room. Where had the thing come from? And his curtains had been replaced. There had been nothing wrong with his curtains! He'd had those curtains for the last eighteen years and now they were gone, no doubt stuffed in the same chest the ones currently hanging there had come from. If his room had been a tad bigger, he was sure they'd have stuffed Yuuri's enormous bed into the room as well. Clothes, Yuuri had said. He didn't even want to imagine what his closet looked like now.

He closed the door without stepping inside. The maids couldn't have moved that furniture on their own. He would find the man who had helped them and set his hair on fire. Unless it was Dakaskos, in which case he'd set the back of his pants on fire before forcing him to march that mess right back to the Maou's wing. Or wherever he'd gotten it from. That dresser was absolutely uncalled-for. He knew very well that Yuuri didn't own any more spare uniforms than he did, and only enough casual clothing to fill two shelves in his own closet. He'd never seen Yuuri use anything more than the first drawer of his dresser in the entire time he'd shared his room. Just how many drawers did the maids think a man needed for undergarments and pajamas? Unless the others were full of linens or...

He opened his door, took one look at his bed, and then slammed the door as hard as he could. That was not Yuuri's bedspread. Yuuri had never owned a black bedspread. What made them think he needed one now? But he didn't need to ask because it was painfully obvious. The two touches of blue he'd had in his room, his blanket and curtains, were now black. His room, the only sanctuary he had in this entire castle, was now the most cramped and gloomy room he had ever seen. And he would have to sleep in there tonight because if he caught so much as a glimpse of the people responsible for this right now he wouldn't be able to stop himself from killing them.

"Sir...? Is something wrong...?"

His eyes snapped to the side, and he bared his teeth at the concerned guard. "Go away."

"Yes, sir!"

Wolfram watched him go. The guard stumbled in his haste, catching the other guard and dragging him off to the far end of the hall. The two men hesitated there, sent another look at him, and then darted around the corner. He had a strong urge to go after them. No, he decided, he really didn't need to be anywhere near the maids at the moment. He closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths. It didn't help. With all of that air in his lungs, it was even harder not to yell. At least he didn't have to worry about taking it out on Yuuri. There was a far more willing source of stress relief right next door.

For a moment he wondered whether to knock or scratch. After one gloomy glare at his own door, he decided this was urgent enough to startle them. He rapped hard on the door. It only took a moment before Daniel opened up, proving that even they didn't mess around in broad daylight. "May I intrude?"

"Of course," Daniel smiled. "I heard you would be avoiding us today. This is a pleasant surprise."

"I was giving you time away from me," Wolfram sniffed. "You're supposed to be grateful." He stepped into the room and his eyes were immediately drawn to Lukas, who was lounging on the bed with his dirty shoes propped on the pillow. Wolfram's nose wrinkled. "I see your manners haven't improved."

Daniel sighed, taking full responsibility. "I do try, but you see what I have to work with."'

"Message taken," Lukas said, rolling his eyes. He sat up and folded his legs under him. "So, to what do we owe this honor? And please don't tell me it's Lady Gisela again. If I have to spend another day in bed, he'll kill me. I'd rather face a field full of hoseki than be at his mercy like this."

Wolfram snorted, amused despite himself. "Funny you should mention that. Reinhild was here. I don't know how his interview went yet, but he left me a parting gift. Are you feeling up to performing a shield?"

Lukas rocked forward, his eyes wide. "He didn't!"

"A shield?" Wolfram prodded, "Around me, if you please." The air shimmered around him. Even at such close range it was a tacky shield, not nearly as strong or translucent as what Gwendal could perform. He shook his head, exchanging a knowing look with Daniel. "Two years practicing and this is the best he can do..."

"It's not for lack of trying," Daniel said kindly. "I just don't think he has a knack for this sort of thing."

"You can't even make a shield," Lukas scoffed. "At least I can block maryoku without blowing the walls down."

"Enough," Wolfram interrupted them. "Take a good look and tell me if you feel anything. If your shield can block this, then I won't say any more about the shoddy appearance. For now."

Lukas winced, "It doesn't look that bad."

"It really does," Daniel informed him. He clasped his hands behind his back and turned his full attention on Wolfram. "Sorry, Captain. You know I have to get the last word in."

Wolfram rolled his eyes. "I know. Now look." He pulled the box out and opened it up, tilting it so they could see the stone. Confined as it was, the energy crashed over him so he wavered before he could get his maryoku active enough to counter it. His stomach immediately cramped up, making him glad he had slept through breakfast. "Can you feel anything?"

"Nothing," said Daniel.

"Good." Wolfram snapped the lid shut and flicked a hand at Lukas. "Drop the shield and leave the room."

Lukas jumped to his feet, nothing joking about his manner now. "Please, Captain. I may have had a mishap the other day, but I swear I can handle being near a hoseki that size."

"It's stronger than it looks. Besides, I want to know if you can feel anything from outside the room." His eyes narrowed when it looked like Lukas would argue. "Now."

"Yes, sir."

Wolfram waited till he was gone, and then frowned at Daniel. "How is he, really?"

"He's been having dizzy spells from the blood-loss, but otherwise he's fine. He says he just forgot to take shallow breaths. One deep breath was all it took to start him coughing and then..." Daniel shrugged, sighing softly. "You were there."

"Have you been feeling dizzy?" asked Wolfram.


"So have I. I don't think there's any way around that." He waved Daniel over to the door and then moved as far from it as he could get. "This really is stronger than it should be, considering the size. Yet the case seems to block it entirely. Come closer if you're able, but don't force yourself. I mean that."

"I won't."

He opened the box again. The energy wasn't as overpowering without the shield, but it still felt stronger than he would have expected from such a small stone. Daniel didn't so much as flinch, so maybe it was the proximity. The blonde approached, getting to within a foot of him before he grimaced. Wolfram didn't prod him to come any closer than that. "What do you think?"

"It's much too strong at this distance. And it's a necklace. I sincerely hope you have no intention of ever wearing that."

Wolfram raised an eyebrow. "Is that a challenge?"

"No, Captain. But it's definitely a challenge from Reinhild. I'm hoping you won't take him up on it."

Wolfram nodded, snapping the box shut. He slipped it back into his pocket. "If he was telling the truth, then he wants to strengthen our forces as a form of revenge against Cimaron. His story is a little too convenient, though. You can let Lukas back in, now."

"Can we make him wait a little longer? He gets so nervous at the thought of me being alone with you. He doesn't understand that he's the bad influence, not me."

"He's just afraid I'll give you his job," Wolfram scoffed. He opened the door himself, stepping deftly aside when Lukas came spilling in. "It's rude to listen at the door."

"Unless it's my door," Lukas grumbled.

"Well?" asked Daniel. "Did you sense anything?"

Lukas ignored him. He leaned against the door, not speaking until Wolfram repeated the question. "No," he drawled, "I didn't sense a thing. But I did see a king." He smirked when Wolfram's eyebrow twitched. "He stared at me. For a good two minutes. It was very awkward."

"That's odd," said Daniel. "He was staring at me yesterday. I can't imagine why."

Wolfram flicked a glare from one to the other, not the least bit amused. "Maybe that's because the two of you were kissing in the bath. Again."

Daniel gasped, a pretty pink blush rising to his cheeks right on cue. "His Majesty saw me naked? With him?"

"You're one to talk," Lukas sniffed. "How do you think I feel? I had to stand out there with him for two minutes. I was this close to ducking into Philipp's room. And I would have stayed in there, too. He's cuter than you, anyway."

"He has a girlfriend."

"He does not. Everyone knows he's lying about that."

"Stop it," Wolfram snapped. "I'm serious. No more messing around in the bath. Or in the halls, for that matter."

Daniel frowned indignantly at him. "We've never done that."

"Because you're a prude," Lukas muttered. "Don't worry, Captain. He won't let me near him in the halls, doesn't want to give the maids a show."

"They twitter," Daniel shivered, rubbing his arms. "You don't even have to put on a show. Every time they see a guy, they twitter. You can't even walk past them without that...that...twitter. It's disturbing."

Wolfram's mouth twitched. At least he wasn't the only one unfond of the maids. "Just try to keep the displays of affection limited to your room for a while."

Lukas tilted his head against the door, his expression entirely serious now. "How long is a while?"

"I don't know," Wolfram admitted. "Just keep it to your room until I say otherwise."


"I'll see to it that he obeys," Daniel promised.

"Oh?" Lukas drawled, smirking again. "So you're going to lend a helping hand?"

"Not if you don't move away from the door. I doubt His Excellency would appreciate the view."

"I wouldn't," Wolfram said blandly. "Move, Lukas. Now."

"Oh, right," Lukas winced. "Sorry, Captain. I wasn't really trying to block your exit. I just forgot this was the only door out of here."

"I'm sure. Take tomorrow off as well. If you get bored, practice that pathetic looking shield of yours."

"It didn't look that bad," Lukas whined.

"It really did," Daniel said sadly.

Wolfram shut the door on their bickering. He turned away and abruptly found himself glaring again. The guards were back, except now there were three of them, standing much closer to his room than usual. This time he couldn't even complain about the change. There would have to be more guards in this wing with Yuuri moving into it. But for them to be here already reeked of Conrad. Gwendal would never have gone along with this. He turned his back and entered his room too quickly for them to catch a glimpse of the morbid black pit it had become. Only his room wasn't quite as black as it had been. He entered just in time to catch Yuuri stuffing the carpet under the bed.

Yuuri stared at him for a moment, feeling very foolish. Then he jumped to his feet. "This wasn't my idea! Honestly, I had no idea they would do this. My room never looked like this, so I don't know what they were thinking. I'll have it back to normal by tomorrow afternoon, I promise."

"Relax," Wolfram sighed. "I know this wasn't your idea. The maids hate me, that's all."

"That's not true. I'm sure they were just trying to..." His eyes moved from the curtains to the bed, and he winced. "To do something nice...for one of us...maybe. I don't know what they were trying to do, exactly, but I'm sure they didn't mean any harm. Anyway, I'll fix it."

"No. The ones who did this will undo it first thing tomorrow. I'll see to that." He crossed to his desk and sat down. He considered putting up a good front, but decided against it. He didn't feel good at all. "I won't be going to dinner, so if you were waiting for me, there's no need."

"Why not? We slept through breakfast. And missed lunch! At least, I did..."

Wolfram frowned at his reflection for a moment before looking up to where Yuuri was reflected over his shoulder. His eyes narrowed. If he was going to give him a chance, he might as well start with this. "Can you keep a secret, Yuuri?"

"Of course I can," Yuuri frowned. "What-"


Yuuri was caught off guard, but as high as Wolfram's overhanded toss was, he caught the box easily. He couldn't help giving him a wincing smile. "One of these days I'll teach you how to throw things without lobbing them as if they're fireballs."

"Just open it," Wolfram muttered. "You wanted to see what he gave me, didn't you?"

"Yeah," Yuuri admitted. He opened the box, holding it away from himself when the glow struck his eyes. "It's red," he frowned. "I thought it would at least be green or blue." He pulled it free so he could turn it over. It was just a roundish red stone with a metal spike stuck in the middle and a loop of string for the 'chain'. "Does this even count as jewelry? I mean, the glow is pretty, but rest is a little...plain..."

"Put it back in the box."

"Why?" Yuuri looked in the mirror only to scowl when he saw Wolfram had his head down and wasn't even looking at him anymore. "Does it bother you to have me touching his 'token' to you?"

"It's hoseki. The stone is much stronger than it looks, especially when it's out of the box." He was surprised how much difference there was. The moment Yuuri had lifted it free, he'd felt worse than he had when he'd been the one holding the box open. "When the box is closed, the stone material completely shields the effect."

"You!" Yuuri had dropped the box. He scrambled to put the necklace away in it. "Why didn't you tell me that from the start?" He closed the box and left it there on the floor. "Are you okay?"

"Of course I am," Wolfram snapped. He lifted his head so he could glare at Yuuri properly. "I've been training to resist hoseki for months. That stone may be stronger than its size suggests, but it's nothing compared to the two Reinhild used on us. I'm feeling nauseous, that's all."

"Do you need to throw up?" Yuuri asked worried.

Wolfram grimaced. "Don't even suggest it!"

"Why would he give you that?"

"So we can continue our training whether his backstory checks out or not. And this stays between us, Yuuri. It's a secret. You can't talk about it to anyone, not even Conrad. Do you think you can manage that?"

"I can keep a secret," Yuuri scowled. "If I think I should. Give me a good reason to keep this a secret."

"Because I asked you to." Wolfram turned sideways in the chair, one arm leaning on the back of it. "That should be reason enough. I didn't have to tell you anything. Even if you had looked at the necklace while I was out of the room, you would never have known what it was. I took a chance by telling you because you asked me to give you a chance. That is what you wanted, isn't it? I'm giving you a chance. So if you really want to prove something to me, prove that I can trust you."

"If you put it like that, then I don't have a choice, do I? That's not fair, Wolfram. You can't expect me to keep quiet about something this dangerous..."

"It's not dangerous," Wolfram said, at patiently as he could. "I'm not even saying we'll use it. But we'll have it in case we do need to use it, if I can't find us another hoseki user right away. And if we do use it, it will stay in the box. It's strong enough just with the lid open that we could train with it at close range for weeks before we'd ever have to take it out."

"Then why the secrecy?" Yuuri demanded.

"Because I don't want Gwendal to take custody of it. If you tell Conrad about it, that is exactly what will happen. The moment he has control of our training, I'll lose everything." He closed his eyes and turn back to the desk, where he rested his chin on his folded hands. "I've worked very hard on this and it's important to me. Now you're in a position to take it away from me. I'm trusting you not to."

Yuuri sat down in the other chair, sitting sideways to face him. Wolfram decided this was nice, much better than having to do all of their talking in bed. He would probably let the second desk stay. "Well?" asked Wolfram.

"What do you expect me to do?" Yuuri felt like he was being backed into a corner and it wasn't fair.

"Honestly?" Wolfram gave a mocking smile. "I expect you to run straight to Conrad and tattle like a wimp."

"I don't tell him everything!" Yuuri protested. Immediately, he thought of his last few conversations with Conrad and winced guiltily. He was practically lying through his teeth, wasn't he? Conrad was his confidante. When he had a problem, Conrad took care of it, or reassured him if it wasn't something that could be fixed. Was that what Wolfram wanted, to be the one he brought things like that to? He couldn't. Half the things he was bringing to Conrad right now were about Wolfram, because he couldn't talk to Wolfram himself about them. "If I tell him things, it's because no one else will talk to me. Everyone around here leaves me out of the loop, and you're just as bad as the rest. Are you saying you'll actually talk to me?"

"I'm willing to try. I'm talking to you now, aren't I?"

"You are, and I'm really suspicious about why." Yuuri made a face and dropped his chin onto his arm so he could frown at Wolfram evenly. "This whole conversation has me really uncomfortable. I'm waiting for the catch, like it's a trap or something."

Wolfram huffed in amusement. "If I wanted to trap you, I wouldn't warn you first, Yuuri. That's not what this is. The simple truth is, I don't feel right about this situation. Reinhild shouldn't have given me that stone, not like that. I won't hesitate to take advantage of it now that I have it, but I don't want to feel guilty about it. I certainly don't want to involve my men in something that will cause trouble for them later. If I don't tell anyone I have it, then I will be acting irresponsibly. By keeping you informed, I'm accountable to someone. You're here. Judging by the additional guard in the hall, I'm guessing you'll be here every night, at least for a while. If anything goes wrong, you'll be the first to know. Believe me, I couldn't hide a bad training session even if I wanted to. You've been on enough ships with me to know that."

"So if I think you're going too far with that stone, I can tell someone? And you won't hold it against me?"

"Well," Wolfram frowned, "I'd hope you would at least give me advanced warning so I have a chance to correct the problem before you tattle on me, but...yes, that's the basic idea. From what I can see, that stone is weak enough that the effects don't reach through the walls. If we do end up using it, we'll probably do it here in the castle, possibly in one of the courtyards with a shield in place. Eventually someone will notice and Gwendal will confront me about it, which will let you off the hook entirely. So I'm not asking you to keep this a secret for long, however it turns out."

"Wait!" Yuuri said quickly, straightening up. "You mean with that necklace you would train here? Instead of going outside the city?"

"As long as it's a closed room or we have a shield in place, I don't see why not..."


Wolfram blinked in surprise. "What?"

"That's perfect. Great. That makes me feel so much better. This whole training outside the city thing doesn't sit right with me at all." Yuuri huffed, grinning weakly. "You should have said that from the start. That changes everything. I have no problem keeping this a secret if it means you'll be here where it's safe. I'll even ask Gisela for healing tips - discretely, I promise! That way you don't have to let her in on it, and-"

"Wait, I never said anything about that. If we do end up doing this, then we won't be risking injuries serious enough to need Gisela. Of course I wouldn't have you sneaking around on my behalf. That's out of the question. As for doing the training here, that's only temporary, and only if Reinhild doesn't check out and I can't find a replacement quickly. I never said I would use that necklace for training. It's a possibility, depending on how things turn out. Once I have a new hoseki user, I would naturally move the training to a less populated area, whether outside the city or in an unused training area."

"But you could do it here if you wanted to, right? You could work with Reinhild or someone else right here in the castle as long as you used a shield?" Yuuri paused, frowning suddenly. "Um...how do you do a shield? Does it block magic or..."

"Gwendal put up a shield when I challenged you," Wolfram reminded him, his eyes narrowed in annoyance at the memory. "Most people with an earth affinity can. My second in command tried one earlier and it blocked the stone's effect. But that was at close range, with a small stone. He wouldn't be able to maintain a shield for long if he were exposed to hoseki himself, and he wouldn't be able to put one up at all while facing an actual hoseki user. Not yet, anyway."

"Then Gwendal could put one up for you..." Yuuri realized his mistake as soon as the words left his mouth. He cringed a little, leaning away from Wolfram.

"Yes," Wolfram growled, "I'm sure Gwendal could. If I were willing to let my training depend entirely on his cooperation, which I'm not. I can't believe you would even suggest that. Do you not understand the entire point of this? This is my training. I will not let him take control of it."

Yuuri put his hands up to ward off that hostility. "Okay! I got it. I'm sorry I suggested it. Maybe I can learn to do a shield or something. It was just an idea. You'll be working on this training for a long time, so who knows, maybe later I can help out like that. I'm just tossing out possibilities, see?"

"Fine. You can toss out whatever possibilities you think of. Just don't expect me to rely on your assistance in any way as far as my own training is concerned." Wolfram shook his head, stopping Yuuri's protest before it could fully form. "You barely have time to yourself as it is. You haven't played catch with Greta once since you got back. With you staying in here, you'll see her even less. Once you catch up with your signing, you'll resume your lessons with Gunter, learning more about our history and culture, and those of our allies. If you find some time to fit healing and magic training in there as well, that's wonderful. I'm sure it will help you control your maryoku better in the future. That's to your own benefit."

"I just want to help."

"I appreciate that, but it isn't needed." Wolfram smiled, softening the rejection. "Having your support would mean a lot more to me than having your help."

Yuuri smiled back. "Okay." He would still learn anything he could that might help, but he knew Wolfram was right about his schedule. There were so many things he needed and wanted to learn here and there was never enough time. Wolfram glanced over his shoulder, and Yuuri followed his gaze. He jumped when he realized he'd left that stone box lying on the floor. He fetched it. "Sorry about that. Where are you going to keep it? It would probably be bad if the maids stumbled across it."

"I'll keep it in my desk," said Wolfram. He put it away in the bottom drawer. He winced a little when Yuuri caught a glimpse of the fluffy things filling that drawer. "Gwendal's creations," he explained. "I ran across a chest of them last month and picked out the pastel ones. Greta has been wanting to redecorate her room, but she keeps changing her mind about the color. I'll give them to her once she makes up her mind and has the shelves ready."

"Yellow?" Yuuri guessed. He'd seen some pink and pale blue fluffies in there, but white and yellow were predominant. "Yellow always struck me as her color. Or a burnt orange, maybe."

"I think she's leaning toward pink and blue at the moment," Wolfram sighed. "Last month it was moss green and orange. I don't understand her tastes at all."

"She's a little girl, what do you expect? I didn't have a chance to tell her I was moving in here. Do you think she'll be upset? She hasn't come to my room at all since I got back, so I didn't even think about how she might react."

"She doesn't do that anymore," said Wolfram. "When you left I asked her if she was alright sleeping by herself. I couldn't have her coming into this wing, so I offered to room closer to her, but she said she liked sleeping in her own room. She might change her mind now that you're back. It's difficult to say. Some days she insists that she's all grown up, other days I catch her sucking her thumb when no one is looking. Watch out for that, would you? It will ruin her mouth. I don't know where she picked that habit up from."

"All little kids suck their thumbs."

Wolfram raised an eyebrow. "Not here, they don't. Unless they want fish mouths by the time they're teenagers. I've seen people like. It isn't pleasant."

"Okay," Yuuri laughed. "I'll take your word for it. So, are you feeling okay now? Does your stomach still hurt? What's it like, being close to hoseki on purpose?"

"I'm fine. A little queasy, maybe, but nothing bad. With close contact to hoseki, everything clenches up. Stomach, lungs, throat." He curled his hand into a fist. "It's like being compressed, weight pushing inward all around you. When you raise your maryoku, it pushes back against it a little, loosens it up enough so you can function. It still hurts, but it's more of an ache than a pain. Gisela thinks the nausea has more to do with the ear than the stomach. I'm still not sure how she determined that. After a while, it's feels like the ground is pitching, even when you're standing still. It's just a very unpleasant sensation. The constriction goes away as soon as you get away from the energy, but the nausea can last for hours." His eyes fell to the closed drawer of his desk. "When it gets bad, I wonder what it must have been like for Brother to be locked in that cell embedded with hoseki. He was locked in there for so long, yet he managed to walk away from it. We're aiming to do even better."

"He walked away, but he had bruised ribs from it," said Yuuri. He could still remember how pale he'd looked, all bandaged up in his bed. It was alarming to see someone like Gwendal reduced to that.

"That could have been from the beating he took," Wolfram reminded him. He was still furious about that. It wasn't bad enough that they'd beaten him. They'd then locked him in a cage where just breathing was torture. He had barely stepped into the cell and he'd been driven to his knees. But that wouldn't happen again. It would take more than a few raw stones to get him off his feet now. "The fact remains that he was able to ignore the effects much better than I did. That wasn't due to his maryoku, it was due to his willpower. My men and I aren't lacking in either."

Yuuri didn't agree quickly enough to suit him. Wolfram pushed his chair back and rose, folding his arms over his chest. "That reminds me. Please don't stare at my men. If you have a problem with them, bring it to me. It's my fault you're in this wing. They shouldn't have to hide in their rooms for fear they'll run across you in the hall."

"What are you talking about?" Yuuri rose to his feet as well. He wasn't about to sit while Wolfram loomed over him like that. "What did I do?"

"I'm talking about Lukas and Daniel. The ones from the bath? They told me you've been staring at them." He saw Yuuri's eyes widen, and shook his head at him. "I admit they shouldn't have been doing that in the bath, but they had no reason to expect you would ever see them in there. It was my fault you were in there, so if they make you uncomfortable, take it out on me, not them."

Yuuri blushed as he recalled the very awkward encounter he'd had when he had reached Wolfram's room earlier. He had stared at the dark-haired boy, but, in his defense, the boy had stared right back at him. That had nothing to do with the kiss he'd seen, though. He'd frozen. All he could think was that this was the guy Wolfram claimed to have had a crush on once. The guy Wolfram had told him to pretend was a girl. And standing there, looking at him, he hadn't seen anything girly whatsoever about him. In fact, the guy was a few inches taller than him and, at close range, a little intimidating. He'd felt as if he were being stared down at by a rival who didn't think much of him as competition. Now, as he gaped at Wolfram, he wondered how he could have gotten that impression. What had the guy done, run straight to Wolfram to 'tattle' on him? For staring back at him? Forget being a rival, the guy sounded more like a pansy now. "He told on me...?"

"They didn't know why you were staring at them," Wolfram frowned. "They knew I was in the bath, but they didn't see you. They probably guessed later that you might have been in there with me, though."

Yuuri didn't pay much attention to the way Wolfram was misunderstanding that little staring session. His mind was rapidly putting things together until suddenly they clicked and he stepped backwards so sharply he nearly knocked his chair over. Shock crashed over him. "You were in his room! That's why he was just standing there in the hall - because you were in his room! I can't believe you - you...hypocrite! What the hell were you doing in his room?"

"Yuuri! I told you-"

"No!" Yuuri snapped. "I know exactly what you told me. You told me you had a crush on him. Now I find out you were in his room. His bedroom! The bedroom of a guy you had a crush on. If I even thought about going into the bedroom of someone I had a crush on, you would kill me! You, Wolfram von Bielefeld, are a hypocrite and that's all there is to it." He folded his arms over his own chest, scowling for all he was worth. "Now you tell me why I shouldn't call you a cheater as well as a hypocrite. Go ahead. I want to hear this."

Wolfram's face reddened in indignation. "How could you even suggest-"

"I suggest nothing. I am saying it flat out. Were you or were you not in his bedroom?" Yuuri didn't give him a chance to do more than gape. "You were. We both know you were. Now tell me why. Explain yourself. Well? I'm waiting."

"He's-" Wolfram closed his mouth for a second before it fell open again. He couldn't believe Yuuri would even suspect him of being unfaithful. And with one of his own men? "He's my second in command! I was showing him the stone Reinhild gave me."

"No, you weren't showing him anything. He was in the hallway and you were in his bedroom. Try again."

"I was showing it to him! I had him put up a shield when I showed it, and then I sent him out of the room because he's still recovering from that last training session and I didn't want him to be affected by it while I was having Daniel gauge the strength. He's my third in command and that happens to be his room, too!"

"Oh, so you were in the bedroom with Daniel, instead. That's the blonde one, right? Yes, I see. That makes it okay, then, right? Wrong. Let me guess, you had a crush on him, too? So it's a threesome you've got going there. That's just great!"

"What!" Wolfram backed up sharply, knocking over his chair. "What are you saying? I never had a crush on Daniel! And what do you mean by threesome? What are you talking about?"

"You know exactly what I'm talking about," Yuuri accused. "But, let me guess, you guys have a different name for threesomes here, huh? Well, that doesn't matter one bit. You were in their room instead of his room. Their bedroom. Great. And you're going to stand there and justify that? Because they're your men? Your boys? Yeah, I'll just bet they are!"

Wolfram snapped, grabbing him by the front of his uniform and giving him a good shake. "Stop it, Yuuri! Just stop!" A hand snatched hold of his own uniform and suddenly they were both being shaken. "Yuuri!"

"No!" Yuuri yelled. "You are not going to shake me quiet! You're in the wrong this time, Wolfram. You are!"

"I am not!" Wolfram let go of Yuuri's shirt and grabbed him by the chin instead. "Listen to me," he said, in lower tone. "I had a crush on Lukas over thirty years ago. You weren't even born yet. I was jealous when I found out they were together, but they were the happiest couple I had ever seen so I would have died before breaking them up. To this day, they are still together, still happy, and I would never do anything to come between them. Someday one of them will die and it will be my fault, because they fought on my orders. I have to live with that. My crush died the day I realized that. They are my men. Don't degrade that by insinuating such vulgarity. When one of them dies, it will kill the other because they're in love. Real love, Yuuri, not your idea of love that's given equally to every insect, animal, and person alike, but real love that you give to one person and one person alone. They have that. Do you honestly believe I would do anything to destroy that?"

"No," said Yuuri. He released his own grip. "But you think I would. I can't make friends with anyone without you accusing me of cheating. You're saying they're your friends, people you care about, but that I should trust you to have relationships like that without being jealous. What about you, Wolfram? You are a hypocrite and you know it. You expect me to be okay with you going into their bedroom. I am. I know you weren't in there messing around with them because you're not that kind of person. You should know by now that I'm not that kind of person either. But if I went into another man's bedroom you would throw an unholy tantrum and accuse me of doing everything we both know neither of us would ever do. And I'm sick of it!"

Wolfram dropped his arm. "It's not the same. You're too trusting and naive. Even if I did trust you, I can't trust the people around you. If you went into another man's room, there's no telling what he'd do to you. You're so blind to the way people throw themselves at you that you wouldn't even see it coming."

"Not everyone is trying to get into my pants," Yuuri said in disgust. "You know that."

"Like I said, you don't even see it. Your first day here Mother drugged you. She left her perfume in your bath and went in with you with the intention of seducing you. Had you felt the slightest attraction for her, that perfume would have turned it into a full fledged lust. The only reason you got away is because your innocence sent you running from the scene. You had no idea, did you?" Wolfram smiled bitterly. "Why do you think you hit me at dinner that night? Because that perfume made any emotion you felt a thousand times stronger. Our entire engagement happened because Mother flubbed her attempt to seduce you."


Yuuri had blurted it out of shock. He wasn't arguing, he was flabbergasted. Wolfram snorted. "I'm sorry to be the one to break it to you. She bragged about it while Gunter was explaining what you'd done. The whole family knows, but we're so used to her seducing whoever she sets her sights on that I guess no one bothered to tell you. That's the world we live in. You live in it, too, now. And until you wise up enough to watch out for predators, female or otherwise, I can't trust you alone with anyone. I just can't. I would no sooner trust you alone in a man's bedroom than I would Greta."

"Don't," Yuuri grimaced. "Don't make that comparison. Don't even joke about that. She's just a kid. No one would..."

"Is Earth really that different? Do you all walk around assuming no one would ever hurt you just because you wouldn't hurt anyone yourself? That no one would want a child because you wouldn't want one? That men won't want you because you don't want them? Of course not. I've been there, Yuuri. You saw the way those women flocked to Gunter. He has never been interested in women, but that didn't stop them for a second. I'm sure, given the chance, they'd have done their best to seduce him."

"Okay, I know some people are like that, and I'll definitely buy Cecilie because she's...different." Yuuri squirmed a little, horribly uncomfortable about that entire subject. He actually had heard something about her perfume being that pretty smell in the bath that time. Even Conrad had commented on the nice fragrance. Realizing that she had actually come into the bath hoping he'd be all hot from the perfume and...yeah, he didn't want to think about that at all. "But you can't say you thought Ulrike was going to jump me. She's half my size! You freaked out and all she did was touch my hand. We weren't even alone together. That's what I'm complaining about. You do that all the time. And Conrad! He's like my brother, or an uncle, or second dad to me. And he's your brother! I mean, you have to know he's not some predator, yet you act like he's...public enemy number one or something. That isn't about protecting me from him, that's about you being jealous. And it's not fair at all. I care about him at least as much as you do about your friends, but I don't even know where his room is. You'd never let me go near it even if I did. Why? Because you don't want me to have relationships like that. Yet I'm supposed to be okay with you having them? That's hypocritical, Wolfram."

"I know."

A moment passed in silence before Yuuri realized Wolfram wasn't going to say anything else. There was no attempt to explain, justify, or apologize. Which, to Yuuri's mind, meant Wolfram either had no intention of changing the behavior, or was unable to. He didn't know what to say to that. Wolfram's irrational jealousy and possessiveness was something Yuuri had learned to live with, but he had hoped that if they talked about it enough, eventually it would go away. "Can you at least try? You try not to get jealous when I talk to other people and I'll try not to get jealous when you spend more time with your squad than you do with me."

"I already am. I haven't said anything since you got back."

"Because you haven't been near me," Yuuri scoffed. "You don't know who I've been talking to. Of course you can't say anything about it. You've been avoiding me to spend time with them."

"And that bothers you? I thought you'd be grateful. Even now, we just end up fighting when we're together." Wolfram offered a weak smile. "Are you saying you like fighting?"

"Well, it's not boring. That's what you said, right? You had crushes on people you thought you'd never be bored with? I don't particularly like fighting with you, but I have to admit it's never boring." Yuuri shrugged, giving his own smile. "I like that."

"Careful. I'm rubbing off on you." He leaned forward impulsively and kissed Yuuri's cheek.

Yuuri's eyes widened, a light brush striking his face. "What was that for?"

"Being sweet," Wolfram smirked. "And cute."

"Oh." Yuuri dropped his eyes, shifting awkwardly. He didn't like being called cute by someone who looked like Wolfram. He would take sweet, though. He had just admitted having a crush on him, after all. "Um, you never did answer my question. Is there some ancient tradition about fiances kissing?"

"None that I know of. It isn't encouraged, though." Wolfram sent a sidelong look at the bed and made a face at the blanket. "It could lead to other things." Though that shouldn't be a problem in their case, especially with that blanket. Black might have been the king's color, but it definitely wasn't a romantic color.

Yuuri glanced up in time to follow Wolfram's gaze. His blush darkened. If he kissed Wolfram now, would he think he was leading up to those 'other things'? Wolfram's eyes turned back to him, and he chickened out completely. He shouldn't have asked him about kissing. He should have just done it. It had been so much easier talking and thinking about these things when they were in bed together. And speaking of beds, "Can you even use a black blanket? I mean, wouldn't sleeping under a black blanket be the same as wearing black clothes?"

"You would think so," Wolfram muttered, glowering at the bedspread again. "But if they think that will keep me from sleeping in my own bed, they're mistaken. You're the only one who will see me, anyway, and you won't complain."

It wasn't a question, it was an order. Yuuri snorted at him. "No, I wouldn't complain. I was actually wondering what you'd look like in black. I guess I'll get to find out tonight, huh?"

Wolfram sniffed back. "Remember to get a good look. First thing tomorrow I'm getting my blanket back. My curtains, too. This room looks like someone died in it."

"It is a little goth. Dark and morbid," he explained, when Wolfram quirked an eyebrow at him. "I am sorry about that. Sangria said she'd bring some of my clothes over here for me. She never said anything about doing this."

Wolfram shrugged dismissively. He didn't want to get angry about the invasion of his room again. "We can deal with her tomorrow. You should head off to dinner. If you go now, you'll have time to talk to Greta first. You can tell her where you are just in case she does decide to sneak to your room tonight. It wouldn't do for her to find it empty."

"Yeah. Does that mean you're still not feeling up to eating? Want me to pick you up something to snack on before bed? You didn't seem to have any trouble with the food I got last time."

"I'd like that. Thank you." Wolfram smiled gratefully. His stomach had actually settled down well enough that he could have joined them for dinner. He just didn't want to sit there with Gunter and Gwendal. The additional guard outside proved that Yuuri had told someone he was moving into this room. He was sure that had been Conrad, though, not Gwendal. He couldn't imagine Gwendal agreeing to this no matter what Yuuri said to convince him. That meant either Conrad had talked his brother into it, or Gwendal hadn't been informed yet. Wolfram preferred to keep his distance from the entire matter. This hadn't been his idea and he had no intention of taking the blame for it.

"I'll see you later, then," said Yuuri. He made it to the door before changing his mind. He hurried over and caught Wolfram just as he was righting his overturned chair. It was a quick kiss, just another light press of lips, but it felt nice and right. He grinned at Wolfram's shocked expression. "Don't fall asleep before I get back. I'll be bringing food with me. Bye!" He left the room quickly before his fiance could react. There was a guard stationed just outside the door, but even that couldn't stop him from pausing to pat himself on the back. He had to ambush Wolfram in order to get up the nerve to kiss him. That was a little sad. But he'd kissed him just the same and Wolfram hadn't fallen over this time, so he was definitely improving.